28 years ago, Scott Bauman sat outside a job interview for the SUU Gymnastics head coach position, sure that he wasn’t even in the running for the opening.
He could hear the candidate before him talking to the athletic department and was sure that the interviewee would land the job.
He was 23 years old, had just graduated from Utah State and was looking into grad school. On his way to visiting some potential medical schools in Nevada and California, he stopped in for his interview. He was an assistant coach for USU’s gymnastics team but thought his lack of experience might hold him back. He pressed on anyway.
After a three-hour interview, the athletic department knew they had their guy. Scott Bauman was the head coach of a gymnastics team and he was barely older than the athletes.
“I had to go back and talk to my then fiance, Stephanie, and say, ‘Hey, what do you think?’ and she was not ready to do it,” Bauman said.
His fiancee was finishing her studies in Logan, but he knew he wanted the gig and decided to make the five-hour drive north every weekend to see his fiancee.
“She made me drive up each weekend. Made me,” he chuckles. “It was legit.”
Bauman took over a talented team that was in complete disarray. There were only eight gymnasts on the team and the new head coach and his staff were forced to find two local athletes willing to walk-on to the team just to be eligible to compete against other schools.
“Those first few years of recruiting were tough, but the girls bought into what [Assistant Coach] Jeff Richards and I were trying to get them to do,” Bauman continued.
The team had talent, but needed an attitude makeover. He encouraged the gymnasts to forget every bad habit they’d ever formed and to focus on getting better each day. It wasn’t a smooth process.
“They fell 82 times on bars alone! That doesn’t include beam, and I don’t think we’ve fallen that many times since.”
Bauman completely revamped the team’s training schedule and worked on creating meaningful connections with his athletes. He knew the squad had potential and he worked his hardest to get it out of them.
The year before, he watched as the Utah State team he helped coach trounced Southern Utah by 30 points. A year later, with Bauman at the helm, the T-Birds beat Utah State in Logan. There was something special brewing in Cedar City.
He has kept in touch with his athletes from that time, and he continues to build his program on the foundation of lifelong relationships and hard work.
“In the beginning, I just taught everyone to work, hard. Just be in here, be ready to go all day long, everyday. As the decades went by I realized with assistant coaches like Jeff and Jamie Wysong, and Kari Louthan, I learned how to let them take over sometimes and trust in them.”
The key to Bauman’s longevity has been his relationships with assistants and his family. His assistants have helped propel the program forward with Coach Scotty leading the charge, but he would have quit a long time ago if not for his family.
“I was so young and unwise when I got here, but I’m glad I was smart enough to marry the most smart and amazing woman to ever walk this planet. That’s the smartest thing I’ve ever done.”
Bauman claims he would never had made it this long as a coach without Stephanie’s support. They met during his time as an assistant in Logan where he coached Stephanie while she was a gymnast.
“I was going to quit coaching because I knew I was in love with that girl. The day I met her I knew it.”
He approached the team’s head coach, Ray Corn, and laid out the situation. Corn encouraged the young assistant coach to stay and Bauman and Stephanie fell in love. Thirty-one years later the couple is still together.
As the years go by it can be easy for a coach to lose commonality with their athletes. Coaches get older but each new batch of competitors is the same age and there can be a generational disconnect between them. Bauman points to the raising of his daughters, Shay and Shaun, as the secret to his ability to maintain common interests with his athletes.
“I was young enough to connect with my athletes when I first got here, but now I have daughters that are my athletes’ age and my daughters have kept me in touch with youth outside of the gym.”
Many gymnasts begin their careers as early as age four and grow up inside the gym. Any gymnastics coach in the world can connect with a gymnast on the sporting level, but he has been able to earn his athletes’ trust by connecting with them beyond superficial gym talk.
“If you care for them, they will give you everything they’ve got. They’ll be willing to put out their best effort. It’s as simple as that.”
Bauman won the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year award in 2010 as well as the North Central Region Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2010. He’s watched as SUU has made the long climb from falling off the bars to a team that’s made the NCAA regional championships each of the last six seasons. Despite these awards, he refuses to take credit for the program’s turnaround.
“I’d like to think I helped steer this ship, but those girls–and I’m being very honest–and my assistants, they’re the ones that do all the work. They’re the ones that deserve all the accolades and all the credit.”
The program continues to march forward, bringing in a top-ten recruiting class to help lift the team during the 2019 season. Bauman has been a constant presence in the team’s 30-year upswing.
When he took over, the team was unknown and had no real chance of being anything other than that. The team needed a spark and it got a full-sized campfire that continues to burn three decades later.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics Strategic Communication